The FCC launched a Mandatory Disaster Response Initiative (MDRI) aimed at ensuring that the nation’s communications networks are more available in the midst of disasters and other emergencies.
MDRI will leverage the industry-developed Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework, which is a voluntary agreement among a limited group of facilities-based mobile wireless service providers. This agreement, which the Commission endorsed in lieu of a mandatory regulatory regime at the time, commits its participants to a five-pronged approach to enhance coordination during an emergency by
- providing for reasonable roaming under disaster arrangements (RuDs) when technically feasible;
- fostering mutual aid among wireless providers during emergencies;
- enhancing municipal preparedness and restoration by convening with local government public safety representatives to develop best practices, and establishing a provider/PSAP contact database;
- increasing consumer readiness and preparation through development and dissemination with consumer groups of a Consumer Readiness Checklist; and
- improving public awareness and stakeholder communications on service and restoration status, through Commission posting of data on cell site outages on an aggregated, county-by-county basis in the relevant area through its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).
Beyond the terms of the Framework itself, the FCC sought input on whether wireless providers should be required to perform testing of their roaming capabilities and related coordination processes, submit reports to the Commission regarding how the Framework had been implemented during a disaster and on whether despite the merits of its history during disasters now, the Framework would be more effective if some or all of its obligations were codified as mandatory.
The FCC has now issued a Report and Order requiring that all facilities-based mobile wireless providers, including each such signatory to the Framework, comply with the MDRI.
The FCC believes the incremental costs imposed on facilities-based mobile wireless providers by these new requirements will be minimal in many cases and, even when significant, will be far outweighed by the nationwide benefits.
Jessica Rosenrorcel, Chairwoman of the FCC, states: “Today’s action takes several important first steps to improve the resiliency of our wireless networks. First, it expands the times and places where carriers will be able to roam on each other’s networks during an emergency, improving the likelihood that people will be able to stay connected when the unthinkable happens. Second, it takes what has to this point has been a voluntary Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework, which promotes service continuity through coordination, assistance, and information sharing during and after emergencies and disasters, and makes it mandatory for all mobile network operators. We’ve seen that the mutual aid and other provisions of this Framework can be effective at speeding recovery and ensuring responders have all the information they need, and it’s time that these practices be implemented on an industry-wide basis. Third, it changes the circumstances that can trigger the initiation of the Framework, meaning that the Framework’s activation will be more predictable, consistent, and responsive to needs on the ground.”